“Who are those $850 fly rods for? If the experts don’t need them and the beginners can’t appreciate them, who needs them?”
If you follow G&G on Facebook then you probably know about my love of old school blues. If you don’t follow us on Facebook, you should, you’re missing half the fun.
I went out the other night to see my friend Gabriel Szucs, AKA “Little G Weevil,” play some blues at a local bar. G is a singularity. Hungarian born, he moved to the states, to the south specifically, to immerse himself in the roots of the blues. After years on Beale St. in Memphis, he fell in love and married a gal from Atlanta and moved there for her. That’s the only way we would ever have a local blues player of his talent.
I discovered G in a hole in the wall BBQ joint called Hottie Hawgs. It’s a dive but there was briefly an awesome music scene there. Trust me when I tell you that this guy is a world class talent. Unfortunately, no one has told the Hungarians that Americans haven’t given a shit about the blues for forty years so you’ve likely never heard of him.
Honestly, you haven’t heard G until you’ve heard him live. It’s his jaw dropping improvisation and the way he responds to the crowd that blows you away. OK, I’m getting to the fishing. I expected to see G playing his flame top Fibenare or maybe his 1940 Kay, both remarkable guitars, but instead, there he sat with a cheap Epiphone acoustic that he payed $150 for in a Mississippi pawn shop.
He slapped a vintage pickup on it and off he went. It sounded amazing! I could not believe he was playing those licks on an acoustic. Epiphones, Gibson’s budget priced imports, are OK guitars but most good players couldn’t play like that on a Taylor or Martin.
“Yeah, it’s hard to play but I don’t care,” G told me. “I like the way it sounds, it’s different.”
You sure couldn’t tell that it was hard to play and that got me thinking about fly rods. You can spend anywhere from $200 to $5000 on a fly rod. You can pay more if you want a really special collectors item but what do you need?
It’s a complicated question. I have some inexpensive rods that I love. I have some really expensive ones I love too. What’s the difference? Other than my Visa balance.
I was fishing with a friend one day who told me, “This $65 Bass Pro rod hasn’t gotten between me and a fish yet.” “Really!” I answered, “I can count at least six this morning.” In “Fishing Bamboo” John Gierach wrote, “Does having a better rod mean you catch more fish? Absolutely!” There is a lot of truth to that and good rods are worth the money but that’s not the whole story.
Here’s an example, I have a friend who is on the pro staff for a budget priced rod company. I’ll call him Jerry. Guys have said to me, “they must be great rods if Jerry fishes them, he’s an amazing caster!” True, Jerry is the best caster I know. Jerry can cast a fly line a hundred feet with a toilet paper tube. His rods, like the Epiphone, are ok and they’re cheap but it doesn’t matter to him. He’s a bad ass with any rod!
At the other end of the spectrum is my buddy with the Bass Pro rod. He’s a great fisherman now but at the time you could hand him a high end rod and it wouldn’t matter. He’d suck just as bad. So here’s the question. Who are those $850 fly rods for? If the experts don’t need them and the beginners can’t appreciate them, who needs them?
Here’s my attempt at an answer. Of course the experts need them. You or I could get a formula one car around the block, maybe in one piece, but when Danica Patric sits in it it’s a whole different machine. My buddy Jerry gets every penny out of that $850, believe me. He also knows, when he picks up a $200 rod, what it’s capable of and if it serves his purpose it’s a bargain.
I have a couple of Redington Predators that I love and fish all the time. Great rods. I don’t throw dry flies with them but that’s not what they were made for. I also own that $5000 custom made bamboo (a generous gift from a good friend, I do not have two dimes to rub together) and let me tell you, that little beauty is the shit wet dreams are made of! I enjoy both of them.
The big pay off is for the intermediate caster. If you’ve been at this for a couple of years and you know which end of the rod to hold, a really good rod will step up your game. It will make you a better caster because it will respond to good form and reinforce good habits over bad. That’s important, especially for the intermediate caster. As you become better you will grow into that rod and you will fish it for a lifetime. You may even pass it on to a son or daughter. A rod like that is worth the cash every time.
If you are a beginner there’s nothing wrong with a beginner rod. You should know if you’re going to fish once a week or once a year before you throw down serious cash. It just doesn’t make sense to own a really expensive rod to hold down space in the closet.
Buying a beginner rod can be tricky. A bad rod can set you back years in learning to cast. It can help you develop bad habits and be like fishing blind folded.
Here’s my advice on choosing one
•Don’t buy online.
I can not over emphasize the importance of a good fly shop. Get advice from the staff and cast the rod before you buy. Ask them to take you to the parking lot for a test drive. If it’s not the middle of their five o’clock rush it shouldn’t be a problem.
•Take your time.
Try a few rods before you buy. Feel the difference. $200 may be cheap for a fly rod but it’s still a lot of money and a rod is like a spouse, you’re going to spend a lot of time with it, find one you like.
Action that is. The most important thing is that you can feel the rod load. That’s how you learn to cast and a slower rod has more feel. You don’t need a rod that’s made to cast a hundred feet until you can cast a hundred feet and usually not then.
•Spend an extra $30
Get a practice rod. Several companies make them and they are the best teaching aid on the market. Read more here
•Get a good line
There are good low price rods but no good low price lines. Expect to pay $60 for a line. It’s worth it and dress the thing once in a while. That’s the biggest mistake I see new casters make.
So, if you’re getting started go down to the local shop and try out some rods from companies like Redington or Ross. There are some good sticks in those racks. If you’ve been fishing that starter setup for a while and you’ve been wondering if a high performance rod is worth the dough, it is. Ask some questions, think about how and where you’re going fish it and find one you like. I’m an intermediate guitarist and I just bought a Les Paul. I actually do sound a whole lot better.
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